When it comes to making and executing strategy, it is human nature to want action. Association executives and managers are action oriented people and we crave execution. When we have a vision for where we want to go…we just want to get there. But is our need for action putting our strategy and our project outcomes at risk? Are we putting our association at risk?
As difficult as it is, we must all do a better job to clearly understand, state and test the critical underlying assumptions of our strategy and projects. First we need to agree that in order to believe our strategy or our project plan, we have in fact made some assumptions. Next, we must answer a few key questions and state our assumptions as clearly as possible:
- To actually achieve our project objectives or vision, what would we need to believe to be true?
- Whether we have said them out loud or not…either implicit, or explicit, what assumptions have we made?
- If wrong, which assumptions are actually critical to our expected outcomes?
Finally, we must test our critical assumptions. This is the hard part because human nature means we would rather go ahead based on gut than find out our assumptions are flawed. Testing assumptions can be complex if the project is important, risky or costly. At the very least, try this:
- Ask yourself the question: what is the one question I would rather not ask members or staff or volunteers until the project is complete? Now go ask that question?
- Who is the one person that will be critical of this project and the assumptions we have made? Now go find that person and subject your assumptions to their criticism.
- What is the most critical financial assumption we have made. Now go do the legwork and due diligence to prove or disprove that assumption.